Residents of Battleford appear to be embracing the new Discovery Co-op food store and pharmacy downtown.
The new food store held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting Friday morning, an event attended by several Co-op officials and dignitaries including Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Rosemarie Falk.
However, the store has already been in business since mid-May, when renovations were completed at the location on 22nd Street and 1st Avenue West.
Co-op officials say the food store’s performance is meeting their expectations so far, and they expressed optimism about its prospects to attract customers.
“Hopefully they continue to support it, and they have already,” said Discovery Co-op manager Mike Nord. “We’re counting on that based upon the work that we’ve done.”
The location had previously stood empty after Super A Foods closed their grocery store. While the site was vacant for only a few months, it was long enough for local residents to feel a void.
“The need for it came out loud and clear once the store did shut down,” said Mayor Ames Leslie at the grand opening. “A person didn’t realize how dependent you were for the essentials of milk and bread, to get them on a daily basis.”
“They really missed it when it did close,” said James Waggoner, Co-op Food Store manager, who said customers have welcomed a grocery store back with open arms.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t get a positive comment from at least one customer,” said Waggoner. “Usually multiple customers tell me how grateful they are to have us here. It’s actually overwhelming how welcoming the community’s been to the store opening here, for sure.”
The food store project did not come without risk. The previous Super A Foods store owners had cited economic pressures as reasons why the store closed in 2018.
“People maybe don’t realize this, but the food business is a tough business,” acknowledged Mike Nord, Discovery Co-op general manager.
“It takes a lot of hard work to really make it successful, so certainly there did have to be a business case and there does have to be support from the community to make sure we stay here.”
To make a grocery store work this time at the location, Discovery Co-op settled on a concept of a combined food store and pharmacy to draw customers in.
Adding the pharmacy with the food store “provides some continuity”, said Nord. It also gives customers “a little more time-savings by being able to kick two birds with one stone.”
The new Battleford store is one of a number of Discovery Co-op initiatives in recent months. Others include the opening of a liquor store at Territorial Place Mall in North Battleford and upgrades are coming to the gas bar at the mall as well.
Discovery Co-op worked closely with officials at Town Hall throughout the process of getting the food store up and running. The town had granted a tax concession to Discovery Co-op to move the project forward.
Mayor Leslie cited the importance of the grocery store to the entire downtown.
“Generally when something like this opens it becomes a snowball effect,” said Leslie.
“Hopefully we see more businesses looking to invest in the downtown core. The goal of every community today in Saskatchewan and across Canada is to revitalize their downtowns.”